Boeing

Mechanic and Machine: Boeing's Advanced Manufacturing Improves 777 Assembly

Advanced manufacturing process has helped build more than 40 777s to date

February 24, 2017 in Our Commitment

Mechanic Mike Jennings has two new words in his job title — robot operator.

He helps oversee one of the robots used in the new Fuselage Automated Upright Build, or FAUB, system that helps manufacture 777s — more than 40 to date — in Everett, Wash.

Mechanic Mike Jennings has two new words in his job title — robot operator.

He helps oversee one of the robots used in the new Fuselage Automated Upright Build, or FAUB, system that helps manufacture 777s — more than 40 to date — in Everett, Wash.

Stationed at a computer that shows robot diagnostics and images from a small camera built into the multifunction tool at the end of a robot arm, Jennings monitors its movements and makes notes. He and fellow team members maintain the system and tweak it if needed.

“I’m learning a new aspect of manufacturing, and that’s really cool,” Jennings said. “I like being part of this cutting-edge technology that’s helping improve how we build airplanes.”

FAUB couples automation with manual work to assemble the forward and aft sections of the 777 fuselage. After teams load and set the panels, robot pairs move in unison along the barrel, “drilling and filling” thousands of fasteners that connect the sections. It’s a job Jennings used to do by hand — repetitive work that he said was tough on his back, neck, shoulders and arms.

FAUB eliminates that stress on the mechanics. It also improves quality and will speed up and add flexibility to the build process, said Samantha Jarema of FAUB Production & Integration.

“Most everything in here is on wheels,” said Jarema, referring to the machinery in the new FAUB factory built at the east end of the Everett site. “We can build any portion of the forward or aft section in any of our six main production positions.”

Mechanics are able to move the robots and massive parts around on automated guided vehicles (AGVs). That mobility and flexibility will allow FAUB to manufacture all 777 models, including the upcoming 777X, said Ben Nimmergut, 777 production engineering chief engineer.

He said the system is not at its full production potential but is making gains each day.
“In any new production system like this, there’s going to be challenges,” Nimmergut said. “We’re learning and growing from those challenges. It’s expected and it’s OK.”

By John Flick

Mechanic Mike Jennings helps oversee one of the robots. He monitors its movements and, along with other team members, tweaks the system if needed.

John Flick

Automated guided vehicles help mechanics move large equipment to different positions in the FAUB factory. John Flick